Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
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It takes a certain kind of comic genius to create a character who is, to quote the classic Sondheim lyric, appealing and appalling. But be forewarned: Borat is not "something for everyone." It arrives as advertised as one of the most outrageous, most offensive, and funniest films in years. Kazakhstan journalist Borat Sagdiyev (Sacha Baron Cohen reprising the popular character from his Da Ali G Show), leaves his humble village to come to "U.S. and A" to film a documentary. After catching an episode of Baywatch in his New York hotel room, he impulsively scuttles his plans and, accompanied by his fat, hirsute producer (Hardy to his Laurel), proceeds to California to pursue the object of his obsession, Pamela Anderson. Borat is not about how he finds America; it's about how America finds him in a series of increasingly cringe-worthy scenes. Borat, with his '70s mustache, well-worn grey suit, and outrageously backwards attitudes (especially where Jews are concerned) interacts with a cross-section of the populace, catching them, a la Alan Funt on Candid Camera, in the act of being themselves. Early on, an unwitting humor coach advises Borat about various types of jokes. Borat asks if his brother's retardation is a ripe subject for comedy. The coach patiently replies, "That would not be funny in America." NOT! Borat is subversively, bracingly funny. When it comes to exploring uncharted territory of what is and is not appropriate or politically correct, Borat knows no boundaries, as when he brings a fancy dinner with the southern gentry to a halt after returning from the bathroom with a bag of his feces ("The cultural differences are vast," his hostess graciously/patronizingly offers), or turns cheers to boos at a rodeo when he calls for bloodlust against the Iraqis and mangles "The Star Spangled Banner."
Success, John F. Kennedy once said, has a thousand fathers. A paternity test on Borat might reveal traces of Bill Dana's Jose Jimenez, Andy Kaufman, Michael Moore, The Jamie Kennedy Xperiment, and Jackass. Some scenes seem to have been staged (a game Anderson, whom Borat confronts at a book signing, was reportedly in on the setup), but others, as the growing litany of lawsuits attests, were not. All too real is Borat's encounter with loutish Southern frat boys who reveal their sexism and racism, and the disturbing moment when he asks a gun store owner what gun he would recommend to "kill a Jew" (a Glock automatic is the matter-of-fact reply). Comedy is not pretty, and in Borat it can get downright ugly, as when Borat and his producer get jiggly with it during a nude fight that spills out from their hotel room into the hallway, elevator, lobby and finally, a mortgage brokers association banquet. High-five! --Donald LiebensonOn the DVD
"Global Visitings" captures Borat-mania in all its hype and glory, as Sacha Baron Cohen, never breaking character, promotes his film around the world. On the itinerary is Late Night with Conan O'Brien and the Toronto Film Festival, a now-legendary screening aborted after a projector malfunction. A mixed bag of deleted scenes finds Borat trying to bait more unsuspecting citizens, including an animal-control worker who refuses Borat a dog after he asks, "How do you recommend I cook this?" and a doctor who is nonplussed by Borat's obscene medical history. A supermarket visit offers the most maddening fromage-inspired looniness since Monty Python's "Cheese Shop" sketch. Also good for a few chuckles are a faux soundtrack commercial and a Baywatch parody ("Sexydangerwatch"). --Donald Liebenson
All things Sacha Baron Cohen
Stills from Borat (click for larger image)
- Kazakhstan "Bay Watch" Spoof
- 5 Deleted Scenes
- The "Best of" other Deleted Scenes Compilation
- Rodeo News Report
- World Promotions Tour Featurette
Top Customer Reviews
Part scripted, partly hidden camera improv, partly "Jackass" tomfoolery--you're never quite sure what is to be believed in "Borat". Some may feel that this limits the film's effectiveness as commentary, but I feel this enhances it's comedic appeal. For there is such unbridled outrageousness to be had in "Borat," it's hard not to be caught up in the spirit. I probably laughed more consistently within the framework of this spare 83 minute film than I have all year. Some of it is dumb humor, to be sure--some of it was shock value or disbelief.
But a large part of the humor comes from real life. By playing the moronic, offensive imbecile--Cohen, and thus Borat, expose a cavalier prejudice, hypocrisy, and/or intolerance that exists within American culture. Whether it's buying a gun to kill Jews, viewing women as sex objects to be violated, or supporting the genocide of our enemies--Borat always finds willing subjects to engage, people who in one way or another identify with these barbaric ideas.
It's tempting to dismiss Borat as offensive nonsense, I know many have already stated that opinion. It might also be tempting for others to embrace "Borat" as one of the more unapologetic and politically relevant films in quite some time. But I don't think it is attempting anything quite so significant--and that, in truth, may be it's greatest success. It walks the line unlike any other film in recent memory. It has elicited much love from fans and major critics and much hatred from it's detractors. This power to provoke such passion, such debate--be it feelings, emotions, thoughts, ideas--that is the film's crowning achievement. This crazy little film is not only one of the year's funniest films, it has also become one of the year's most talked about. Who can argue with that? KGHarris, 11/06.
***May contain spoilers***
But let me say that when I got my Borat DVD in the mail today (how I love Amazon deliveries the day DVDs are available - and with super saver shipping no less) I was a little confused. I opened the package, and found a DVD covered by your usual sleeve promoting its highlights like any other you might buy in the US. Then, I eagerly slipped the plastic-covered DVD out of the sleeve, turned it over to read the back, started reading and wait... what? or rather, CHTO? because the entire DVD cover is in Russian.
Now, I read Russian. And I have purchased pirated DVDs for $2 at Moscow metro stations because that is pretty much what you do when you're in Russia. So the fact that I examined this DVD case for a good 5 minutes, opened it to find what looks like a DVD-R disc with "Borat" labeled in permanent marker and seriously considered the possibility that somehow a pirated DVD had been sent by Amazon... finally, of course, I realized that the whole thing was a joke. Possibly even funnier to me than any single joke in the film. The giveaway was the single slip of paper inside promoting more films you can buy from the US and A that are legal in kazakhstan...
Anyway. Now all I have to do is go to Russia and purchase an ACTUAL pirated version to compare!
The DVD should be purchased for the uncanny packaging alone, but I guess I have ruined the surprise...
There's also a mock late-night TV music ad, with Borat singing to kids about their miseries and then covering "Born to Be Wild" from the stupid van. In the "Censored Footages" section of 8 clips, check out Borat's visit to an incredulous doctor -- "That means you had sex with your sister? ... No high 5" -- and a "Baywatch" spoof, "Sexy Drown Watch," with plenty of flab on display -- and another thong.
It all adds up to a bonus half-hour with Borat, most of it as good as anything in the movie.